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Dear Dr. Einstein, Can You Help?

"Please write and give me your opinion on this question (whether or not you'll lose your famous and valuable mind)." Perhaps not the most tactful query ever sent to Albert Einstein, but certainly not that unusual among the many letters he received from children.

Following are excerpts from a new book, "Dear Professor Einstein: Albert Einstein's Letters to and From Children," edited by Alice Calaprice (Prometheus Books). Facsimiles of some of these letters, as well as others from "The Einstein Scrapbook," by Ze'ev Rosenkranz (Johns Hopkins University Press), can be seen at the "Einstein" exhibition that opened yesterday at the American Museum of Natural History.


Dear Sir,

. . . I probably would have written ages ago, only I was not aware that you were still alive. I am not interested in history, and I thought that you had lived in the 18th c., or somewhere around that time. I must have been mixing you up with Sir Isaac Newton or someone. Anyway, I discovered during Maths one day that the mistress (who we can always sidetrack) was talking about the most brilliant scientists. She mentioned that you were in America, and when I asked whether you were buried there, and not in England, she said, Well, you were not dead yet. I was so excited when I heard that, that I all but got a Maths detention! . . .

My best friends are the Wilson twins. Every night after Lights Out at school, Pat Wilson and I lean out of our cubicle windows, which are next to each other, and discuss Astronomy, which we both prefer to anything as far as work goes. Pat has a telescope and we study those stars that we can see. For the first part of the year we had Pleiades, and the constellation of Orion, then Castor and Pollux, and what we thought to be Mars and Saturn. Now they have all moved over, and we usually have to creep past the prefect's room to other parts of the building to carry on our observations. We have been caught a few times now, though, so its rather difficult. . . .
Yours obediently,
10th July, 1946

Dear Tyfanny,

. . . I have to apologize to you that I am still among the living. There will be a remedy for this, however. . . .

I hope that yours and your friend's future astronomical investigations will not be discovered anymore by the eyes and ears of your school-government. This is the attitude taken by most good citizens toward their government and I think rightly so.
Yours sincerely,
Albert Einstein
August 25, 1946


Dear Mr. Einstein,

I am writing to you to settle an arguement another boy and I had in school today. We are both in the eighth grade . . . This friend of mine claims that every genius is bound to go insane because all geniuses in the past have gone insane. I could not make him believe that there ever had been a genius in the past that hasn't gone insane. I said that you were a genius and you hadn't gone insane. My friend said you would go crazy in a year or less. I said you wouldn't . . . If at all possible try not to go insane at all. Confidentaly, I think my friend isn't quite all there.

Please write and give me your opinion on this question (whether or not you'll lose your famous and valuable mind).
Admiringly yours,
May 6, 1949


Dear Dr. Einstein,

I want to know what is beyond the sky. My mother said you could tell me.
Yours truly,
March 25, 1950

Dear Proffesser,

. . . We are in sixth grade. In our class we are having an argument. The class took sides. We six are on one side and 21 on the other side. Our teacher is also on the other side so that makes 22. The argument is whether there would be living things on earth if the sun burnt out or if human beings would die. . . . We believe there would be living things on the earth if the sun burnt out. Will you tell us what you think. . . .

We would like you to join our Six Little Scientists, only now it would be Six Little Scientists and One Big Scientist. . . .

Love and lollipops,
Six Little Scientists

Dear Children:

The minority is sometimes right — but not in your case. Without sunlight there is :

no wheat, no bread,

no grass, no cattle, no meat, no milk, and everything would be frozen.

A. Einstein
December 12, 1951


Dear Sir,

. . . My teacher and I were talking about Satan. Of course you know that when he fell from heven, he fell for nine days, and nine nights, at 32 feet a second and was increasing his speed every second.

I was told there was a foluma [formula] to it. I know you don't have time for such little things, but if possible please send me the foluma.
Thank you,


Dear Dr. Einstein,

I am a pupil in the sixth grade at Westview School. We have been talking about animals and plants in Science. There are a few children in our room that do not understand why people are classed as animals. I would appreciate it very much if you would please answer this and explain to me why people are classed as animals.

Thanking you,
November 12, 1952

Dear Children:

We should not ask "What is an animal" but "what sort of thing do we call an animal?" Well, we call something an animal which has certain characteristics: it takes nourishment, it descends from parents similar to itself, it grows, it moves by itself, it dies if its time has run out. That's why we call the worms, the chicken, the dog, the monkey an animal. What about us humans? Think about it in the above mentioned way and then decide for yourselves whether it is a natural thing to regard ourselves as animals.

With kind regards,
Albert Einstein
January 17, 1953

Budapest Journal; Hungarian Fingerprints All Over the 20th Century  (March 20, 1998)  $

The Early Years: Nov. 9, 1930;The Mystic  (April 14, 1996) 

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Albert Einstein Archives, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Children frequently wrote to Albert Einstein but their letters weren't always of a scientific character.

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